The Significance of Consciousness by Charles P. Siewert (Princeton University Press) presents a distinctive approach to consciousness that emphasizes our first-person knowledge of experience and argues that we should grant consciousness a central place in our conception of mind and intentionality. Written in an engaging manner accessible to the thoughtful general reader, this book challenges current theories on the nature of consciousness.
Siewert presents a distinctive approach to consciousness that emphasizes our
first-person knowledge of experience and argues that we should grant
consciousness, understood in this way, a central place in our conception of mind
and intentionality. Written in an engaging manner that makes its recently
controversial topic accessible to the thoughtful general reader, this book
challenges theories that equate consciousness with a functional role or with the
mere availability of sensory information to cognitive capacities. Siewert argues
that the notion of phenomenal consciousness, slighted in some recent theories,
can be made evident by noting our reliance on first-person knowledge and by
considering, from the subject's point of view, the difference between having and
lacking certain kinds of experience. This contrast is clarified by careful
attention to cases, both actual and hypothetical, indicated by research on
brain-damaged patients' ability to discriminate visually without conscious
visual experience--what has become known as "blindsight." In addition, Siewert
convincingly defends such approaches against objections that they make an
illegitimate appeal to "introspection."
Experiences that are conscious in Siewert's sense differ from each other in ways that only what is conscious can--in phenomenal character--and having this character gives them intentionality. In Siewert's view, consciousness is involved not only in the intentionality of sense experience and imagery, but in that of nonimagistic ways of thinking as well. Consciousness is pervasively bound up with intelligent perception and conceptual thought: it is not mere sensation or "raw feel." Having thus understood consciousness, we can better recognize how, for many of us, it possesses such deep intrinsic value that life without it would be little or no better than death.
The Nature of Consciousness by Mark Rowlands (Cambridge University Press) In The Nature of Consciousness, Rowlands develops an innovative and radical account of the nature of phenomenal consciousness, one that has significant consequences for attempts to find a place for it in the natural order. The most significant feature of consciousness is its dual nature: consciousness can be both the directing of awareness and that upon which awareness is directed. Rowlands offers a clear and philosophically insightful discussion of the main positions in this fast‑moving debate, and argues that the phenomenal aspects of conscious experience are aspects that exist only in the directing of experience towards non‑phenomenal objects, a theory that undermines reductive attempts to explain consciousness in terms of what is not conscious. His book will be of interest to a wide range of readers in the philosophy of mind and language, psychology, and cognitive science.
His arguments are brief and well positioned within the major arguments about what is knowable about consciousness. His arguments for the irreducibility of consciousness to object clarifies some of the more liegeman arguments of McGinn and Chalmers
Excerpt: The book to follow can, nominally, be thought of as divided into two parts. Part 1, which consists of chapters 2‑5, is concerned with vertical attempts to explain consciousness. Of these chapters, the first two examine the prospects of attempts to explain consciousness in physical terms. Or, more precisely, they examine two recent and (deservedly) influential attempts to show that these prospects are minimal or non‑existent. Chapter 2 focuses on Chalmers' attempt to show that consciousness cannot be reductively explained in physical terms. Chapter 3 examines McGinn's case for the claim that there exists an unbridgeable explanatory gap between consciousness and the physical world.
My attitude to both positions is somewhat equivocal. I believe that both McGinn and Chalmers might be right, but I am not convinced that they are. More specifically, I shall try to show that the arguments of both McGinn and Chalmers are far from conclusive. In so far as anything concrete emerges from chapters 2 and 3, then, it is simply that consciousness might be reductively explainable in physical terms.
Chapters 4 and 5, the remaining chapters of part 1, are concerned with attempts to explain phenomenal consciousness in terms of access‑, specifically monitoring, consciousness. Chapter 4 examines the higherorder experience account of consciousness. In chapter 5, the focus is on higher‑order thought models. I shall argue that both types of model fail as explanations of consciousness. They are not even adequate as models of introspective consciousness; and have no chance whatsoever of explaining phenomenal consciousness.
This view of the phenomenal, it will be shown, has certain clear affinities with the representationist account of phenomenal character, in particular, the rejection of the view that phenomenal features are constituted purely by what is going on inside the head of an experiencing subject. However, in chapter 9, I shall draw attention to some of the important differences between this view and the representationist one. There, I shall argue that the transcendental status of phenomenal features of experience rules out the representationist attempt to explain the phenomenal in terms of the representational.
In chapter 10, the final chapter, I shall argue that the transcendental status of phenomenal properties or features is incompatible with any attempt to reductively explain the phenomenal in terms of the non-phenomenal.
The problem of phenomenal consciousness, the problem of explaining how phenomenal consciousness can come from what is not conscious, has no solution. We know consciousness is produced by what is not conscious, but we can never understand how. Chapter 10 also explores the wider question of the place of phenomenal consciousness in the natural order. It will be argued that the prospects for finding a place for consciousness in the natural order are not as bleak as the failure of reductive explanation might lead us to think.
The Taboo of Subjectivity: Towards a New Science of Consciousness by B. Alan Wallace (Oxford) makes the provocative claim that science has become, in many ways, a modern cult, which promotes certain ways of knowing and metaphysical beliefs to the exclusion of others. Subjectivity, an integral aspect of our experience, has been neglected to the point that its existence is in doubt.
Since the book is aimed at people familiar with the common view of scientific materialism, it focuses upon the weaknesses in the scientific materialist view, and how taking contemplative practice and experience seriously can allow us to see that this scientific view is lacking an awareness and understanding of subjectivity. This exclusion is related to assumptions that may have been necessary to get science off the ground (objectivism, monism, universalism, reductionism, the closure principle, and physicalism). However, these assumptions have become ensconced, and now play a role often attributed to religious doctrines: they go unquestioned, lead us to believe stories regarding our origins and nature which are not empirically grounded, and blind us to aspects of common, everyday experience. He traces the roots of these metaphysical beliefs to ancient Greek philosophy and to early and Medieval Christian theology to point out that these are beliefs, and are not empirically proven. The scientific materialist view has many weaknesses, among them: it gives a highly problematic account of the origin and nature of consciousness, and of the relation of mind and body, based more on faith and dogma than on scientific findings; it has no method for systematically exploring consciousness firsthand; scientific knowledge is inadequate for dealing with either global problems, such as environmental pollution (which it has helped to create), or personal problems, such as mental well-being. He points out that "from a contemplative perspective, scientific materialism arrests human development in a state of spiritual infancy; and when a society of such spiritual infants is put in control of the awesome powers of science and technology, global catastrophe seems virtually inevitable." Since "a thoroughly materialistic view of the universe based on science suggests a [certain] set of values and ideals, with profound implications for dealing with the personal, societal, and environmental problems that beset us today," it is imperative to examine this view in depth, and compare it with other world views, in the light of our current situation.
The two main arguments that have been leveled against the subjective from the scientific side are that: subjective influences taint experiments (of implicitly objective phenomena), and subjective phenomena are not scientifically analyzable, which has developed into the extreme position that such phenomena aren't real, but are merely epiphenomena.
Introspection has traditionally been used to investigate consciousness, but many scientists ignore introspection, claim that it cannot tell us anything important, or argue against the possibility of there even being such an activity. Wallace reviews these claims, showing that many of the objections to the use or possibility of introspection could be equally applied to scientific knowledge and techniques; and yet, science works. Therefore it seems that it is primarily the metaphysical beliefs of scientists that prevent them from admitting, and engaging in, ways of knowing such as those based on introspective, contemplative practice. Wallace supports a pragmatic approach to knowledge: "the only guide for methodology is the universal one, namely, to use anything that works."
But we cannot just tack another viewpoint, such as "the spiritual worldview", onto our accounts from science; there are real conflicts here, especially with respect to consciousness, and its origins and nature. For example, as he points out in another article, "Buddhist inquiry into the natural world proceeds from a radically different point of departure than western science, and its methods differ correspondingly.... Buddhism begins with the premise that the mind is the primary source of human joy and misery and is central to understanding the natural world as a whole." He reviews several kinds of divisions commonly made (subjective/objective, private/public, sacred/profane, fact/value) which might permit some kind of clean compartmentalization, and rejects them all. Instead, he calls for a dialogue between different ways of knowing. In order to open the way for a new science of consciousness, we must radically reevaluate the metaphysical stances of the scientific worldview, and of the relations between science and religion. For example, he argues that contemplative practice is in many ways in the spirit of science: it involves rigorous training to prepare the contemplative to inquire, through experience and reasoning, into the nature of things.
However, for people who are reluctant to admit that there can be nondelusional spiritual experiences, this contemplative perspective is going to seem like a belief, and probably won't shake whatever faith they have in the scientific worldview. This is one reason why Wallace constantly emphasizes that the claims of contemplatives are claims to be evaluated (both experientially and through reason), rather than established facts (which usually assumes some kind of general agreement within a community of which the reader and author are part). It is also probably why he emphasizes how contemplative practice could inform a new science of consciousness, rather than simply claiming that these practices have value on their own, as he does in some of his other books, aimed at different audiences.
Perhaps realizing the limitations of our current sciences of the mind will
open us to new methods and new views, to explore the knowledge of other
societies, and recover ways of knowing that may have been lost within our own
traditions. It is hard to know where a truly open-minded, open-hearted dialogue
between science and religion could lead, but it is exciting that this seems to
be a genuine possibility today, probably more so than any time in the past.
Thus, the central question of book is: "does a way exist to integrate the
power of religion and of science for the physical, mental, and spiritual
well-being of humanity?"
Normally the word science conjures up images of the new technologies in communications, medicine and manufacturing that are the hallmark of modern life. But science's influence extends beyond matter to the mind. Its main impact there has been to question, if not invalidate, everything from religion to the commonplace components of our inner lives - our thoughts and emotions, values and ideals. Such subjective phenomena are not to be found on science's objective map.
The The Taboo of Subjectivity takes on both science and religion in an attempt not to reconcile the two, but to reveal their common connection in consciousness itself. To accomplish this, Alan Wallace, whose academic background includes both physics and religion, sets out to show that science and religion have each embraced "fundamentalist" attitudes that distort their essential natures.
Science, he suggests, has fallen under the spell of scientific materialism, a philosophical interpretation of science, based on Newton's mechanical model of the universe: if something can't be measured objectively, it doesn't exist. This view maintains a hold on both the public and many scientists despite its having been debunked over 100 years ago. The quantum physics pioneered by Max Planck reintroduced subjective human consciousness into nature, emphasizing the importance of the observer and questioning the existence of a universe made up of solid particles unconnected to human perception.
Religion, according to Wallace, has largely abandoned its roots in contemplation, which the author views as a science of consciousness. Religious fundamentalism denies direct human contact with the divine - the aim of contemplation - in favor of unquestioned belief. Science similarly denies validity to consciousness - the realm of free will, the soul, and the possibility of life after death - by reducing all mental phenomena to mere electro-chemical patterns in the brain. Thus there is double taboo against our subjective selves.
How effective are Wallace's arguments? Sound critiques of scientific materialism have already been crafted by philosophers of science, Paul Feyerabend and Bas C. van Fraassen among others. Contributions from the humanistic tradition have come from William James, Aldous Huxley, Alan Watts, and, more recently, Ken Wilber. Wallace synthesizes these strands into a scathing, three-pronged attack claiming that: 1) Scientific materialism is antiquated in its refusal to accept the conclusions of quantum physics. 2) It inflates the conclusions of valid experimental science - especially where neuroscience reduces consciousness to brain processes, for which there is no compelling scientific evidence. 3) The requirement of scientific objectivity ignores the bias of science's own assumptions, which include mathematics and the enculturation process of scientific training.
But most fascinating and compelling are Wallace's chapters on the subjective exploration of the mind - contemplation. The author's contention is that the meditation practices of many Eastern religions are no less reliable and "objective" in their own sphere - the mind - than is experimental science in the realm of the material. It's not all voodoo and hocus-pocus.
Wallace, a religious studies professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, has expertise in this area. He spent 14 years as a Buddhist monk, teaches meditation, and is a student of and translator for the Dalai Lama. A variety of approaches to contemplation are explained in some detail, showing that the techniques are extremely exacting. As with proofs in experimental science, similar outcomes can be obtained by the meditator using different practices. Results can be repeated and then confirmed by meditation experts.
These arguments cannot be shunted aside as easily as Ken Wilber's more poetic approach in The Marriage of Sense and Soul . Whereas Wilber speaks in general terms and relies on a grand theory all his own, Wallace is more specific, demonstrating a firm grasp of physics and the history of science. He cements his case with logical arguments that opponents may find challenging to refute.
A response is called for, especially from the neurosciences, because the implications of Wallace's book are sweeping. The incorporation of subjective, contemplative methods within a scientific framework for the exploration of the mind could lend credence to many subjective aspects of human mental life and effect a repositioning of science - as a brother discipline to the arts and humanities rather than as their unforgiving father.
Buddhism with an Attitude: The Tibetan Seven-Point Mind-Training by B. Alan Wallace, edited by Lynn Quirolo (Snow Lion) All of us have attitudes. Some of them accord with reality and serve us well throughout the course of our lives. Others are out of alignment with reality and cause us problems. Tibetan Buddhist practice isn't just sitting in silent meditation. It's developing fresh attitudes that align our minds with reality. Attitudes need adjusting, just like a spinal column that has been knocked out of alignment. In this book, B. Alan Wallace explains a fundamental type of mental training called lojong, which can literally be translated as attitudinal training. It is designed to shift our attitudes so that our minds become pure wellsprings of joy instead of murky pools of problems, anxieties, fleeting pleasures, hopes, and frustrations.
The Tibetan word lojong is made up of two parts: lo means attitude, mind, intelligence, and perspective; and jong means to train, purify, remedy, and clear away. So the word lojong could literally be translated as attitudinal training, but in this book it is called mind‑training.
The author draws on his thirty‑year training in Buddhism, physics, the cognitive sciences, and comparative religion to challenge readers to reappraise many of their assumptions about the nature of the mind and physical world. By explicitly addressing many practical and theoretical issues that uniquely face us in the modern world, Wallace brings this centuries‑old practice into the twenty-first century.Wallace shows us the way to develop attitudes that unveil our full capacity for spiritual awakening and discover in ourselves an unfleeting "truth-given joy."
There is a remarkable convergence in these teachings and the program in the classic Teach Only Love: The Twelve Principles of Attitudinal Healingby Gerald G. Jampolsky (Beyond Words). In 1975, Jerry Jampolsky cofounded the Center for Attitudinal Healing in Tiburon, California, where people with life-threatening illnesses practice peace of mind as an instrument of transformation. Based on the healing power of love and forgiveness, the 12 principles developed at the center, and explained in this book, embrace the idea that total giving and total acceptance are crucial to the healing process and that attitudinal healing can lead to harmony, joy, and life without fear.
Physical Nature of Consciousness by Philip R. Van Loocke (Advances in
Consciousness Research, Series A, V. 29: John Benjamins) discusses recent and
new perspectives on the relation between modem physics and consciousness.
Stuart Harneroff presents an updated exposition of the Penrose/HameroffOrch-OR model, addressing recent criticisms of quantum approaches to the brain. Evan Walker takes a new approach to the integration of quantum theory and relativity. Friedrich Beck elaborates on the Beck/Eccles quantum approach to consciousness. Karl Pribram puts the holographic view on consciousness in perspective of his life long work. Peter Marcerand Edgar Mitchell explain the relevance of quantum holography for consciousness. Gordon Globus discusses the relation between postmodern philosophical theories and quantum consciousness. Chris Clarke develops a theory in terms of a specific type of formal logic to reconcile the phenomenology of consciousness with the physical world. Ilya Prigogine summarizes his view on complexity, and on the future of quantum theory, which goes beyond the present formalism. Matti Pitkanen identifies the place for consciousness in a unifying topological geometro-dynamics theory. Colin McGinn argues against classical materialism. Dick Bierman gives an overview of anomalous phenomena, identifying a decline effect. Philip Van Loocke closes the volume with a discussion on how deep teleology in.cellular systems may relate to consciousness.
Biological feasibility of quantum approaches to consciousness The Penrose-Hameroff `Orch OR' model by Stuart Hameroff : Abstract: Quantum approaches have enormous explanatory power for understanding enigmatic features of consciousness. The Penrose-Hameroff `Orch OR' model involves quantum superposition/computation in microtubules within the brain's neurons. As technological quantum processes require extreme cold and isolation to avoid thermal decoherence, conventional wisdom holds against biological quantum processes in the apparently "warm, wet and noisy" brain. Methods which biological systems may have evolved to avoid decoherence are discussed.
The natural philosophy and physics of consciousness by Evan Harris Walker: Consciousness comes out of quantum mechanics - from the presence of tunneling in the brain, and from state vector collapse brought on by the brain's comparison loops. This fact is tied to the machinery of the MSE - the modified Schrodinger equation. This understanding of consciousness also lets us resolve problems in neurophysiology and even in physics - the resolution of the disparity that has long beset general relativity vis a vis quantum theory. We use this understanding of consciousness as a quantum process to resolve the measurement problem in quantum mechanics and to obtain quantities that allow us to test experimentally the viability of this theory.
Quantum Brain Dynamics and Consciousness by Friedrich Beck: The last decades of the 19th century have brought us tremendous progress in understanding complex biological structures. This has been achieved on one hand by refined microbiological experimental techniques, and on the other by an increased understanding of complexity on the basis of nonlinear dynamics. In brain research this has led to new insight into the brain's topological structure during specific activities like attention, volition, ideation, or neurochemical abnormalities. One of the most intensely studied areas is the visual cortex where pattern recognition techniques have revealed insight into the transformation of incoming nerve signals into coherent spatio-temporal patterns. These empirical studies have been accompanied by modelings of the neural net as noisy and dissipative open system, leading to characteristic self-organization processes. Following these lines it is tempting to regard brain activity solely as a complicated and highly involved input-output process, moderated by the brain's memorial history, and working on similar lines as complicated artificial intelligence programs. Many neuroscientists adopt this concept, as, e.g., expressed in the works of Crick & Koch and of Edelman. In their opinion consciousness, the special qualia of human responsive behavior, finds here its natural physical explanation, avoiding the socalled Cartesian dilemma.
Neuropsychological Investigations by Karl H. Pribram: It is conjectured that each organism, like a Leibnizian monad, re-presents the universe, and the universe reflects, in some manner, the organism that observes it. The perceptions of an organism cannot be understood without an understanding of the nature of the physical universe and the nature of the physical universe cannot be understood without an understanding of the perceptual process. The Leibnizian position gets significantly reinforced by quantum theory, but remarkably in a way in which the space-time and spectral perspectives get reconciled and appear to be no more divisive than the two faces of the same coin. This occurs via Planck's constant h, which opens up a bridge between space-time locatable concepts such as mass and undulatory concepts such as energy measured as frequency, wavelength, amplitude and phase. On the basis of such reasoning, the brain is seen to be the medium for transformations into and out of a potential distributed energetic and an experienced spacetime order.
What is consciousness? An essay on the relativistic quantum holographic model of the brain/mind, working by phase conjugate adaptive resonance by Peter Marcer and Edgar Mitchell: The quantum holographic model described provides mathematically founded specifications in terms of physical laws for the nature of information, knowledge, qualia, intelligence, the self and consciousness. It explains how a brain/mind, its neurons, dendrites, synapses, etc may be postulated to work, so as to explain the well known binding problem. It sheds fight on the fact that brains can be so much more versatile, competent, and efficient than their digital information processing counterparts, in relation to perception, cognition, language and intelligence. Further, it provides a methodology, by means of which to predict the information processing morphology and signal dynamics of such brains, i.e. their neuroinformatics on various scales, so as to be validatable against the experimental facts of neurophysiology, neuropsychology, etc. The paper begins with an explanation of general scientific principles and concepts associated with the model, and supporting evidence is described. It ends with a proposal by means of which it can be further experimentally validated. This proposal concerns predicting the existence and the properties of microtubules internal to the axon of the neuron. Such a prediction provides an independent confirmation of the long held, but still controversial hypothesis of Hameroff and Penrose, that such axonal microtubules are a quantum mechanism fundamental to consciousness in higher organisms, such as humans.
Thinking together quantum brain dynamics and postmodernism by Gordon Globus: I "think together" quantum brain dynamics (QBD) and postmodernism (appropriated to include Heidegger). In particular, the world thrownness of Heidegger, the sovereignty of Bataille and the differance of Derrida can be talked about in terms of QBD. This effects a rapprochement between the QBD revolution against classical neural network brain theory and the postmodem revolution against modernity and the metaphysical tradition. Such a grand millennial rapprochement brings together science in the guise of quantum neurophysics and postmodernism against their respective wills. Discussion of the problem of "consciousness" and brain has been so stalemated and seemingly interminable that if progress is to be made, a great conceptual wrenching is only to be expected. My formulation relinquishes consciousness and the quotidian world-in-common in favor of existence and parallel world-thrownnesses.
Consciousness and non-hierarchical physics by Chris Clarke: An example is presented of a model of consciousness based on a description of the world which integrates the material and psychological aspects from the start. An indication is given of work under way to test the model.
Time and the laws of nature by Ilya Prigogine: The first part of this paper gives a summary of the philosophy of nature and of the view on time that follows from recent fundamental theories on complex systems. This part is followed by an interview-style part on the implications of this view for consciousness.
Matter, Mind and the quantum A Topological Geometro-Dynamics perspective by Matti Pitkanen: Topological Geometro-Dynamics (TGD) is a unified theory of fundamental interactions. TGD involves a quite far-reaching generalization of the space-time concept and, apart from the notion of quantum jump, reduces quantum theory to infinite-dimensional geometry. General coordinate invariance forces the identification of the quantum states as quantum histories rather than time-constant snapshots of a single quantum history: this solves the basic detemunismlnon-determinism paradox of quantum measurement theory. The identification of the quantum jump as a moment of consciousness defines the microscopic theory of consciousness. p-Adic numbers is one of the basic new mathematical concepts necessary for the formulation of quantum TGD. The notion of the self as a subsystem remaining p-radically unentangled under the action of the "time evolution" operator U (S-matrix) associated with the sequential quantum jumps is central for the macroscopic theory of consciousness. Vanishing p-Adic entanglement means subcritical real entanglement so that the self can be regarded as a critical phenomenon. The moments of consciousness which occurred after the last "wake-up" bind temporally to a single experience and give rise to immediate subjective memory. Each self represents a self-organizing system approaching a stable self-organization pattern selected by dissipation. A self can have sub-selves and experiences sub-selves as mental images which are averages about mental images of sub-sub-selves. An infinite hierarchy of selves giving rise to an abstraction hierarchy is predicted. The notion of the manysheeted spacetime and the classical non-determinism of the Kahler action defining configuration space geometry are crucial for understanding how psychological time and cognition emerge in the TGD-universe and a rather radical generalization of the views about the relationship of subjective and geometric time is forced.
What is it not Like to be a Brain? by Colin Mc Ginn: The standard objection to materialism is inverted. It is argued that materialism fails to do justice to the nature of matter, it omits or distorts the distinctive character of physical phenomena The symmetry of identity plays a crucial role in the argument
On the nature of anamalous phenomena Another reality between the world of subjective consciousness and the objective world of physics? By Dick J. Bierman: Cumulating evidence suggests that anomalous correlations occur between mental (conscious and non-conscious) states and apparently unrelated physical or mental phenomena at a distance in space and time. In spite of the fact that the evidence is very strong, these correlations are difficult to replicate. Several examples are given of `failures' to empirically replicate original anomalies. It is speculated that this failure to replicate, rather than indicating that the original findings are due to statistical flukes or errors, suggests that when consciousness interacts with matter, an underlying reality arises. This reality is somewhere in between the purely objective shareable reality and the purely subjective reality of one's individual consciousness. Efforts to `push' anomalous phenomena observed in this intermediate reality into the objective one apparently destroy the phenomena. Possible explanations within a physical and within a system theoretical model are discussed. The physical model is based upon an analysis of the role of I-consciousness in the so-called `Measurement Problem' in Quantum Physics. Based upon these discussions a new systematic experimental approach for the study of anomalous phenomena is suggested.The philosophy of consciousness, `deep' teleology and objective selection by Philip Van Loocke: We consider systems in which forces and selection (or `reduction') procedures cooperate to determine present states. Forces work on the immediate past of a system and determine a set of possible states. Selection works in the immediate future and selects one of these states as the actual state of the system. Selection can be constrained in terms of a criterion not reducible to the forces operating on the system. It is shown that the performance of different types of procedures increases when this type of teleology is inserted. This is illustrated with an example from the cognitive domain and with examples that belong to the context of generative art. More fundamentally, it is conjectured that, given the complexity of our universe, selection can operate systematically without leading to replicable violation of physical laws. The relation between selection and the philosophy of consciousness is discussed.
THE RADIANCE OF BEING: Complexity, Chaos and the Evolution of Consciousness by Allan Combs ($18.95, paperback, 350 pages, Paragon House; ISBN: 1557787557)
For over a century, the scientific establishment has ignored challenges to the theory of evolution. But in the last decade such complacency about its scientific and philosophical foundations has been shaken. As cracks in the Darwinian edifice have begun to appear, many are asking whether a defensible alternative exists. There is a new interest in the nature of consciousness in the scientific and scholarly communities, an interest vitally needed in our times among scholars exploring the possibility of intelligent design as values. Too often, though, this interest is too specialized, too narrow. At the cellular level there appears to be a high level of irreducible complexity that suggests design possibilities not accounted for by evolutionary theories of consciousness and complexity. It is refreshing to find an explanatory theory in scientific descriptions of the universe. In an era when consciousness studies have finally begun to receive the attention they deserve, offers an inter-disciplinary perspective that is creative, unique, and comprehensive.
Trained in mathematics, mechanical engineering, and philosophy, Combs attempts to present in THE RADIANCE OF BEING a the full theory of human consciousness, and deal with it competently and creatively.This book will be required reading for any serious student of the mystery of what we are. and are to become.
THE USER ILLUSION: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size by Tor Norretranders ($29.95, hardcover, 480 pages, Viking Books; ISBN: 0670875791)
European popular science writer Norretranders makes his American debut by providing an original argument about the meaning and nature of consciousness. He draws on apparently divergent threads of 20th century scientific thought to integrate key concepts to show the limits of consciousness. In contrast to common belief, consciousness is not in control of most of what we do, think, feel and experience; on the contrary, it is lagging behind and often informed after the event. This simple yet rather startling notion is at the center Norretranderss ambitious and provocative new book, THE USER ILLUSION.
Norretranders attempts to unify perspectives from several widely separated scientific disciplines, including thermodynamics, computer science, neurophysiology, the psychology of perception, and chaos theory. In the process, he presents an elegantly argued book about the limits of consciousness and the information-rich, non-conscious performance involved in many human activities.
Both a work of science and a work of philosophy, THE USER ILLUSION starts with a very basic notion that we sense far more than we are conscious of, whether we want to or not. In any given second, we consciously process only 16 of the 11 million bits of information our senses pass on to our brains. According to Norretranders, meaning or understanding arises from this information that has been discarded; he coins the word "exformation" to describe such information thrown away before communication. He goes on to say that we do not actually experience raw sensory data, but a simulation of them. Consciousness for Norretranders is thus a fraud, an illusion, a peculiar phenomenon that is riddled with deceit and self-deception.
Throughout THE USER ILLUSION, Norretranders keeps returning to what he sees as the two basic states or phases of the universe: order or chaos, solid or liquid, linear or nonlinear; "I" (the conscious aspect of the person) or "Me" (the non-conscious and dominant aspect). For him, "it is on the edge of chaos, on the boundary between order and chaos, that the really interesting things happen." This line of thought leads Norretranders to an attempt to understand and critique modern civilization. Finding the appropriate balance between the linear and the nonlinear is a major challenge for civilization, and is closely related to the challenge of finding the proper balance between the conscious and the nonconscious. Civilization is about linearity, about making life predictable, about reducing the amount of information relevant to daily life. Information, on the other hand, "is a measure of unpredictability, disorder, mess, chaos, amazement, indescribability, surprises, otherness." Thus, ironically, in our so-called "Information Society" we are deprived of information because of our overemphasis on conscious control. We are reduced as a result of discarding most of the unpredictable otherness that imbues the world outside us.
Norretranders closes his book by advocating that we should "have the courage to believe that life is greater than we know," that "man is much more than his consciousness." When we embrace the world like this, we attain a sense of total unity with what we are doing, "a spontaneous, direct feeling that the energy is flowing, that the force is with us." As he writes, "life is really more fun when you are not conscious of it." For him, the insight that consciousness plays a smaller role in human life than many people think "may be the only insight capable of transforming culture."
In the final analysis, THE USER ILLUSION provides us with a scientifically based antidote to our contemporary anomie, helping us to put consciousness in perspective and context and to embrace the richness of human life. Prepublication reviews and endorsements have praised the enormous range of this outstanding book, which, in combining accessible popular science with highly original thinking, takes a difficult subject and makes it tangibly applicable to daily life.
About the author: Born in 1955 in Copenhagen, Tor Norretranders is the leading science writer and correspondent in Denmark. He is the author of ten previous books covering such topics as the environment, science policy, sexuality, quantum mechanics, cosmology and the sociology of science. He has hosted and produced the popular science show "Hvaelv" on Danish national television, which received top ratings despite its coverage of esoteric subjects like superstrings, fractals, and molecular biology. He has organized a major effort to establish international collaboration between scientists and artists and has recently written a book on the sociology and future of the Internet. THE USER ILLUSION, which was a major bestseller in Denmark, is his first book to be published in America, and is a selection of The Book-of-the-Month Club.
IN THE THEATER OF CONSCIOUSNESS: The Workplace of the Mind by Bernard J. Baars ($25.00, hardcover, 193 pages, selected references, index, Oxford University Press, 0-19-510265-7)
Understanding consciousness is perhaps the most difficult puzzle facing the sciences today, but in the last ten years remarkable strides have been made, reflecting important technological breakthroughs and the enormous efforts of researchers in disciplines as varied as neuroscience, cognitive science, and philosophy. In fact, debates over theories and between these disciplines have at times been so intense, the arguments have become known as the consciousness wars. Now, eminent psychologist Bernard J. Baars brings us to the front lines of the debate in his recent book, IN THE THEATER OF CONSCIOUSNESS, which takes the general reader on a fascinating tour of how top scientists currently understand the process underlying conscious experience. As an introduction to consciousness studies this volume has wide appeal.
The only book in recent years written by a psychologist, IN THE THEATER OF CONSCIOUSNESS brilliantly weaves together the various theories that have emerged as scientists continue their quest to uncover the profound mysteries of the mind - and of human nature itself. Baars takes us to the top laboratories around the world, where we witness some of the fields most exciting breakthroughs and discoveries which he illustrates with numerous and often highly amusing on-the-spot demonstrations.
The sciences are often accused of mechanistic reductionism, of trying to reduce human beings to dead mechanisms. That criticism could apply to the period of behaviorism, when psychology and brain science abandoned the quest for human consciousness. Remarkably, we are now in the midst of unprecedented scientific developments that are making conscious experience the very center of scientific discussion. The argument made by Baars is that improved understanding of conscious experiences tends to be humanizing. For example, we can now see people silently talking to themselves, as we all do, by means of real-time images of the living brain. At a time when negative aspects of science are so widely discussed, we can all imagine some possible risks of the emerging consciousness science. Yet the ability to share aspects of private experience in a public way may also profoundly alter our scientific epistemology. When we in science begin to think through the implications of brain scans of conscious experiences, very possibly the private aspect of psychological reality will assume once again the central role that it had for William James. The new discoveries may help to humanize our scientific point of view in a dramatic fashion. IN THE THEATER OF CONSCIOUSNESS is likely to endure as a useful introduction to the study of consciousness.
CONSCIOUSNESS LOST AND FOUND: A Neuropsychological Exploration by Lawrence Weiskrantz ($25.00, cloth, 294 pages, references, indexes, Oxford University Press, 0-19-852301-7)
The phenomenon of "consciousness" is intrinsically related to ones awareness of ones self, of time, and of the physical world. But what if something should happen to impair ones awareness? What do we make of "consciousness" in those people who have suffered brain damage, such as amnesia?
Contrary to the perception that many have about brain-damaged patients, it has been discovered that many of these individuals retain intact capacities of which they are unaware, in what is known as covert processing. A blind patient, then, may actually be able to "see, " without having knowledge of such success, while an amnesiac patient can be shown to learn and retain information that he or she does not realize is memory, nor can be made to realize. In fact, in every major class of defect in which patients lose cognitive ability--from perception, to meaning, to memory, to language--examples of preserved capacities can be found of which the patient is unaware. Weiskrantz probes deeply into this phenomenon known to neuropsychologists but unfamiliar to many lay readers, and uses it as a springboard toward a philosophical argument which, combined with the latest brain imaging studies, points the way to specific brain structures which may be involved in conscious awareness. Weiskrantz takes his argument further, too, asking whether animals who share much the same brain anatomy as humans share awareness--and how that impacts our assumptions about evolution as well as our moral and ethical decision making.
Written in an engaging and accessible style, CONSCIOUSNESS LOST AND FOUND provides a unique perspective on one of the most challenging issues in science today. But it appeal is more one of hindsight, explaining why earlier theories did not pan out than of foresight offering fruitful hypotheses to be tried out tomorrow.
About the Author One of the centurys most distinguished neuropsychologists, Lawrence Weiskrantz was a Professor for 26 years in the Department of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University.
THE EVOLUTION OF THE SOUL Revised Edition by Richard Swinburne ($32.00, paper, 360 pages, notes, index, Oxford University Press ISBN: 0198236980)
Human beings have evolved from animals, and animals from inanimate matter; but what has evolved is qualitatively different from the inanimate matter from which it began. Both humans and the higher animals have a mental life of sensation, thought, purpose, desire, and belief. Although these mental states in part cause, and are caused by, brain states, they are distinct from them. Richard Swinburne argues that we can only make sense of this interaction by supposing that mental states are states of a soul, a mental substance in interaction with the body. Although both have a rich mental life, human souls, unlike animal souls, are capable of logical thought, have moral beliefs, have free will, and have an internal structure (so that their beliefs and desires are formed largely by other beliefs and desires inhering in the soul). Professor Swinburne concludes that there is no full scientific explanation available for the evolution of the soul, and almost certainly there never will be. For this revised edition Professor Swinburne has taken the opportunity to strengthen and expand his book to take account of developments in this area of philosophy since the first edition. He adds a prolegomenon and seven new appendixes, in addition to minor revisions of the main text.
Richard Swinburne has been Nolloth Professor of the Philosophy of the Christian Religion at the University of Oxford, and a Fellow of Oriel College, since 1985. He is a Fellow of the British Academy.
The first edition of THE EVOLUTION OF THE SOUL was published in 1986. It argued in Part I that (pure) mental events (e.g. me being in pain) are distinct from physical events (e.g. C-fibres in my brain firing); the occurrence of one does not entail the occurrence of the other or vice versa, although one may cause the other. It went on to argue in Part II that humans (and the higher animals) consist of two separate partssoul and bodyand that (pure) mental events are goings-on in the soul, while physical events are goings-on in the body. Soul and body interact. Finally in Part III it proceeded to describe in detail what the human soul is like, what its capacities are. It claimed that these include freedom of willto choose between alternatives without our choices being predetermined by prior states of affairs. The central theme of the book was the theme of substance dualismthat humans consist of two separate substances, body and soul. Plato thought this, and so did Descartes, and so did so many other thinkers of the last three millennia. But in 1997, as in 1986, few philosophical positions are as unfashionable as is substance dualism. These days one gets a far more sympathetic hearing for arguments to the existence of God than for arguments to the existence of the soul. Yet to my mind the arguments for the latter are ones of immense strength; and so in the revised edition of The Evolution of the Soul I seek again to persuade my philosophical colleagues and more generally the scientific world and the wider educated public, of the immense strength of those arguments.
This new edition includes a few minor alterations to the main text (of which perhaps the most important is to my account of event identity on pp. 52-3), and a number of new appendices in which I amplify the main text and comment on relevant recent work in philosophy and science. Although the past decade has seen an enormous number of philosophical books and articles on the mind-body problem, an impartial observer would inevitably receive the impression that the recent philosophical debate has generated more heat than light and not advanced our understanding very much. Some of my additional appendices seek to justify this harsh judgment. There has also been a lot of interesting work in neurophysiology and psychology, but I do not think that any results in this field affect in any way the main arguments of this book. I seek to justify this latter statement, when I discuss in Appendix B recent theories of brain architecture, and when I discuss in Appendix F some work on the brain correlates of some human acts of choosing. To my mind by far the most interesting scientific work relevant to our topic has been the work, not of neurophysicists, but of physicists considering how Quantum Theory might be held to provide an explanation of mind-brain interactionand give rise to free choice. I discuss Roger Penroses two fascinating books in Appendix E. While I do not think that they yet establish very much, they do point in the direction of the view which I advocated in Chapter 13 that Quantum Theory allows room for human free choice.
The thread which runs through the first two parts of my book is this: a correct scientific account of the world must seek to describe all the kinds of happenings there are, and if a happening of one kind does not entail the occurrence of a happening of some other kind (i.e. if the latter is not part of the former, but an additional feature of the world) then there are happenings of two kinds to be described. Hence, I argue, as well as happenings in the brain, there are pains, thoughts, afterimages and so onmaybe the former often cause the latter, but they are separate from them. This distinctness is drawn to our attention by the fact that sometimes we have no idea and no possible way of discovering to any significant degree of probability exactly which mental events are caused by certain brain events. However much we know about a bats brain, we can get from it very little understanding of how (if at all) the bat perceives (i.e. has a sensory picture of and beliefs about) its surroundings.
Likewise, I argue, my continuing to have a conscious life after a brain operation is a different phenomenon from someone-or-other having a conscious life connected to my body after the operation. So science needs a word for what is essential to me, the survival of which entails my survivaland the word soul serves that function. A full description of the world should tell us not merely what happened to my body and its constituent atoms but also what happened to my soul. Because normally mental events of certain types go with brain events of certain types and my souls existence goes with that of my body, the materialist suggests that we do not need to talk of pains and thoughts and souls, only of brain events and bodies. But in so doing he is commending to us a Newspeak .(The rulers in Orwells Nineteen Eighty-Four imposed on their subjects the language Newspeak, which provided no vocabulary for describing certain features of the world, and so prevented the subjects from being aware of those features of the world.) For even if there were very tight correlations between the mental and the physical (and I shall be arguing that the correlations are not totally tight), this would be something very important about our worldwhich science should draw to our attentionand that involves acknowledging that these are separate things, however closely they are tied together. It is for this reason that detailed scientific discoveries of recent centuries about the nature of the physical world in general, or the operation of the brain in particular, are simply irrelevant to the main dualist contentions. The dualist is not claiming merely to provide a theory which explains very well the physical phenomenain the way that the atomic theory of chemistry explains very well the phenomena of chemical interactions observable with the naked eye. If that were all that the dualist aimed to do, some scientific discoveries might prove difficult for dualism to explain but much easier for some other theory to explain. No, the dualist claims that dualism is involved in the phenomena, the experienced data, themselves we have pains as well as brain states, and we continue to be conscious as well as our bodies continuing to function. That there are continuing subjects of experience who are conscious is a datum, itself in need of explanation. Detailed scientific discoveries are relevant only to showing more about what souls are likee.g. that they have free willnot for showing that there are such things at all.
Some critics of the first edition of my book commented that I had not dealt with what seemed to them to be one of the strongest arguments against dualismthat the dualist has never been able to provide an explanation of how mind (i.e. soul) and body interact how brain-events cause pains, images, and beliefs. I had indeed not discussed this, for the simple reason that it seems no good argument against the existence of a causal connection which can be
repeated endlessly at will, that we cannot explain how it works. That bodily events cause brain events and that these cause pains, images, and beliefs (where their subjects have privileged access to the latter and not the former), is one of the most obvious phenomena of human experience. If we cannot explain how that occurs, we should not try to pretend that it does not occur. We should just acknowledge that human beings are not omniscient, and cannot understand everything.
One writer of recent years who has emphasized this point very clearly is Colin McGinn. In a number of works, but especially in The Problem of Consciousness, he has argued that humans very probably do not have the kind of intelligence which would enable them to understand the mechanism of mind-body interaction. He is however convinced not merely that there is such interaction, but that there is some deep noumenal feature of the world in consequence of which consciousness depends necessarily on the brain. One might well ask how it is that if McGinn does not know the mechanism of interaction, he is so convinced that it must be of a certain kind (i.e. a hidden noumenal structure such that beings with brains of certain kinds must be conscious). His conviction seems to arise from the fact that it is either eliminativism [i.e. there are no conscious events] or miracles [i.e. the action of God to connect body and soul] or hidden structure. Absolute noumenalism is preferable to denying the undeniable or wallowing in the supernatural. I gave arguments in Chapter 10 as to why there is most unlikely to be a hidden structure of McGinns kind, and I share his wish not to deny the undeniable. If that leaves us with God as the agent who sustains the mind/body connection in humans, so be it. That is not something for which I have argued in this bookexcept briefly in the short appendix to Chapter 10. But I have argued elsewhere that mind-body interaction forms part of a strong cumulative case for the existence of God. My concern in this book is simply to describe the phenomena, and the limits to our ability to provide any fundamental explanation of them.
McGinn is not entirely alone in acknowledging that the fact of mind-body interaction is something far beyond the capacity of contemporary science to explain. But the relatively few other writers on the philosophy of mind who do acknowledge this, tend to refer to it in passing. And even most of those who do recognize that there is a very deep problem about how brain events interact with mental events, do not also recognize that there is a very deep problem indeed about what ensures that the same subject of experience (in my terminology, same soul) normally interacts with the same body. There is however one firm defence of the substantial and immaterial nature of the human person in John Fosters The Immaterial Self.
In The View from Nowhere, Thomas Nagel has claimed that the main objection to dualism is that it postulates an additional nonphysical substance without explaining how it can support subjective mental states whereas the brain cant .But again it is no objection to a theory that it cannot answer all questions. A person continues to exist if that person has mental states; but, I argue in Part II, the mere continued existence of the persons body is neither necessary nor sufficient for the continued existence of the person. Yet the continuing existence of a person is the continuing existence of a substance, in the sense of a thing capable of causal interactions. So mental states must pertain to an immaterial substance. There is nothing self-contradictory in this supposition, and if in some sense it is a mystery how it can be; then we should be humble and accept that there just are some things we cannot understandwhile that fact gives no reason for supposing that they do not occur. It would be very surprising indeed if humans could understand with respect to everything that they knew to occur, how and why it occurred.
Most of the enormous amount of writing by philosophers, psychologists, and physicists over the past twelve years on the mind-body problem, has been very materialist in its general stance. Some of it has been of an eliminativist nature, arguing that really there are no such things as beliefs or pains; there are simply brain states. I reject this highly implausible view for the reasons given in my Part I. The majority of philosophers perhaps accept that there are mental events in some sense distinct from brain events. Mental events are not identical with brain events identity theory is rejected; but in the current jargon mental events supervene on brain events, or are realized in them, or are composed of them. I argue in New Appendix A that such views have to come cleaneither they claim that for each mental event, there is some brain event the occurrence of which entails the occurrence of the formerof logical necessity; or they allow that the connection between brain events and mental events is merely contingent. I claim that the former view is open to all the old objections against identity theory; the latter view is that which I espouse in Part I.
My modal argument for substance dualism has been the subject of a certain amount of discussion in philosophical journals, and I defend it against objections in New Appendix C. One criticism of substance dualism is that the dualist cannot say what souls are; he has to say that a soul is just something he knows not what .In New Appendix D I do give an account of the kind of thing souls are, but claim that it is no good objection that I cannot say what makes the difference between one soul and another. In the end some things just are different from each other. In the first edition of The Evolution of the Soul I had no treatment of one argument in favour of human free willthe argument from Godels Theorem, given currency by J. R. Lucas. In the end this is not an argument which I can endorse, but it was a deficiency of the first edition that it contained no discussion of the argument. In New Appendix F I say why I am not persuaded by it.
Prolegomenon to the Revised Edition
3. Sensations and Brain-Events
8. Body and Soul
9. The Evidence of Personal Identity
10. The Origin and Life of the Soul
11. Language, Rationality, and Choice
12. Moral Awareness
13. The Freedom of the Will
14. The Structure of the Soul
15. The Future of the Soul
New App. A. Supervenience, Constitution, and Realization
New App. B. Language of Thought, Connectionism, and Folk Psychology
New App. C. The Modal Argument for Substance Dualism
New App. D. The Nature of Souls; Their Thisness
New App. E. More on Quantum Theory and the Brain
New App. F. Godel's Theorem and Free Will
New App. G. Libet's Experiments
Writing in a careful, thought-provoking style, the author tours through
the philosophical ramifications of consciousness studies and the theories that spawn them.
Chalmers credibly demonstrates that contemporary cognitive science and neuroscience do not
begin to explain how subjective experience emerges from neural processes in the brain. He
then, propounds that conscious experience must instead be understood in a new light-as an
irreducible entity (like such physical properties as time, mass, and space) that exists at
a fundamental level and cannot be understood as the sum of simpler physical parts. In the
second half of the book, he sets out on a quest for a "fundamental theory." That
is a theory of the basic laws governing the structure and character of conscious
experience. He shows how this reconception of the mind can lead us to a new science of
consciousness. Throughout the book, Chalmers offers a series of appealing thought
experiments that graphically represent his ideas. For example, in exploring the
possibility that consciousness could be experienced by machines as well as humans,
Chalmers asks us to imagine a thinking brain in which neurons are slowly replaced by
silicon chips - as the neurons are replaced, will consciousness gradually fade away? The
book also features thoughtful discussions of how the author's ideas might be applied to
subjects as diverse as artificial intelligence and the interpretation of quantum
mechanics. All of us have pondered the mysteries of consciousness. Engaging and
penetrating, The Conscious Mind adds a fresh new perspective that will spark
debate about our understanding of the mind for years to come.
This generalist's guide to the new science of mind offers an
interdisciplinary tour of the recasting of the mind-body problem as recently envisaged by
AI (Artificial Intelligence), artificial life, cognitive science, computer science,
connectionist theory, ethnology, evolutionary biology, mathematics, physics,
neurophysiology, robotics, engineering, and philosophy. Franklin has written his work in
an attempt to show lines of general convergence toward a new paradigm of mind. The book is
an original work of scientific synthesis written with enough precision as to be
interesting to working scientists and with enough flare as to be accessible to the general
reader without an inordinate technical capacity.
Thinking Computers and Virtual Persons
How do symbols have meaning for us? Foundations of Understanding
argues that this is the key question to ask about intentionality,
or meaningful thought. It thus offers an alternative to currently popular linguistic
models of intentionality, the inadequacies of which are examined. The goal should be to
explain, not how symbols, mental or otherwise, can refer to or 'mean' states of affairs in
the external world, but how they can mean something to us, the users. This turn around
from the objectivism of linguistic analysis back to an introspective appreciation of how
meaning comes to be through the somaticism of the body is the cutting edge of this study.
The essence of intentionality is shown to be conscious understanding, the roots of which lie in experiences of embodiment and goal-directed action.
A developmental path is traced from a foundation of conscious understanding in the ability to perform basic actions, through the understanding of the concept of an objective, external world, to the understanding of language and abstract symbols.
The work is interdisciplinary. Data from the neurosciences, cognitive psychology, and the perspectives of phenomenologists such as Merleau-Ponty, are integrated with traditional philosophical analysis.
The book includes a chapter on the nature of conscious qualitative experience and its neural correlates. These suggestions of how the four qualities of conscious experience as externality, unity, reflexivity, and awareness itself are shown to be founded on a neurological base of memory, sensory input, the unity of the process as reflexive and as self referential sets the base to remove the subject-object dichotomies that have haunted explanations of how consciousness and neurology are compatible. This work continues the work quickly reaching a crescendo attempting to solve the riddle of consciousness.
The Metamorphosis of the Given
Toward an Ecology of Consciousness
by Friedmann Schwarzkopf
Series: Revisioning Philosophy 20
hardcover, 210 pages, bibliography, index
The Metamorphosis of the Given leads us to experience reality
as a product of what is given and not-given. Given are the perceptual world and all
organizing systems of the mind. Not-given is the act of the human spirit of giving
attention and new meanings. These are not given because only the human being can give
them. The conversation of humanity reflects this interaction between the human spirit and
the world. In this process the feeling of reality changes and gives birth to possibilities
for a new emerging shared paradigm. This skillful adaptation of consciousness theory to
the central insights of anthroposophist, Rudolf Steiner is an agreeable and
precious work, by a mature thinker who has a clear grasp of the key issues in the
philosophic debate about the utility of consciousness. After an uncommonly exact
explanation of the parameters of thinking, He proceeds to a series of appreciative
thoughts about the major philosophers' ideas about. Using the conflicts among them as
occasions to think farther the work then lies open, with surprising lucidity, what has
been demonstrated throughout a way of inquiring into things meditatively, a way that lifts
the inquires into partnership with creation.
This learned and penetrating essay in epistemology shows that the renewal of culture, particularly in this time of unprecedented danger and despair, depends upon the re-enlivening of thinking itself.
Friedmann-Eckart Schwarzkopf, Ph. D. (philosophy), born 1947 in Germany, trained attorney, writer and lecturer, teaches philosophy and theory of natural science at Rudolf Steiner College, Sacramento (Fair Oaks), California His emphasis is to observe the light of human awareness and how it molds our shared reality. He is known as translator and editor of several books and many articles by the Hungarian scientist and philosopher, George Kublewind.
Merrell-Wolff's Experience and Philosophy
A Personal Record of Transformation and a Discussion of Transcendental Consciousness: Containing his Philosophy of Consciousness Without an Object and his Pathways Through to Space
by Franklin Merrell-Wolff
State University of New York Press
Transformations in Consciousness
The Metaphysics and Epistemology: Containing his Introceptualism
by Franklin Merrell-Wolff
State University of New York Press
$19.95, paper; 384 pages
The experience of enlightenment, or of an unitive awareness beyond
subject-object dualisms has often been basic for mysticisms in all traditions. It has also
been vigorously debated by philosophers with a general consensus reached during the
Enlightenment that reason or logic was the unique quality of consciousness. Even today
reductionisms attempt to limit consciousness to some energetic metaphor. Merrell-Wolff's
experience is all the more important for he comes out of a rigorous mathematical and
philosophical background. When confronted with this nondualistic consciousness and its
transformative effects, Merrell-Wolff was hard put to explain it. Taking on Kant's mirror
dependencies of consciousness, being contingent upon perception and conception,
Merrell-Wolff formulated important accounts all based experientially upon his own
illuminate nondual consciousness. His most important work, and least known is
Introceptualism where he sets out a formal epistemology and metaphysics for this basic
transcendent consciousness. He also modifies some of his earlier statements, attempting to
clarify his account of mysticism as well as placing his idealism into juxtaposition to
modernist naturalism, realism, idealism and pragmatism. These books reflect a life time
effort to formulate an adequate philosophy that can include such radical nondual
consciousness as a present reality and possibility. Somewhat reclusive during his long
life, he refused to guide or instruct others in what he felt was a natural condition of
human consciousness when left to its own nature. In many ways these books provide a place
where critical philosophy is strictly mystical. Highly recommended.
insert content here